Saturday, November 21, 2020

Adapt or Perish: The Covid Edition

 


One thing I've learned in the Time of Covid is that I could really stand to up my online game up. I try, but there's just so much I don't know! 
Like a lot of artists, when I first started selling online, I kinda thought it would be easy-peasy. List the items, then watch the sales roll in! As we all know by now, there ain't no free lunch for nothin. Getting a website is like opening a store in your basement; nobody is gonna know it is there unless you get the word out. That's where I really need help. 

Luckily there is a solution to not knowing much about a thing you need to know, and that is learning about it. I've been meaning to get this book for a while now: Guide to Marketing Art & Crafts Online. Milly Welsh, the author, is a friend & the webmaster for the Maine Pottery Tour.  

I skimmed through it briefly upon arrival - it is absolutely packed with helpful information - enough, even, that I felt a little overwhelmed. I took some time to digest it, reminded myself that I don't have to do everything, then started reading again. As I said, there's tons in there, but let me share a couple of bits that I found especially helpful: 
  • In the section Make Your Customers Repeat Customers: 
    Provide a great unboxing experience....Sellers who do this right make opening their packages part of the experience. Some examples of improving your unboxing experience are: packaging your products with branded materials inside, including swag (think pens, stickers, & otehr useful items with your branding on them), you can even decorate the outside of your boxes with stickers or graphics.
  • On photographs for retail sites: Show your product in use
    (Honestly that makes sense & it's something I almost never do. Look for that to change!)
  • On Keywords: One thing to consider is that you probably won't be able to compete right away for highly competitive keywords. I'm pretty good at SEO, but even I wouldn't necessarily go after a really broad term like "pottery." Instead I might go after a really specific keyword like "Pottery Coffee Mugs" (because even a term like "coffee mugs" is likely just oing ot be a little too competitive.) 
    Again: makes sense! But I wouldn't have thought of it. 
There's a section on keywords generally & how to use them, a big section on Etsy. You may remember that I hate Etsy (at least as a seller) but I know it's a good option for many people, especially if you are just starting online sales. Milly also explains the strengths & best uses of the various social media platforms, how to use Google Analytics, how to create a Facebook ad, and ways to drive traffic to your website. 
If you, like me, are looking for ways to expand your online sales in these pandemic times, I really recommend it. It's $20, + $4 shipping, at this link.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Procrastination Energy

 

I haven't fired as often this year as other years, because obviously. I am gearing up to do a glaze firing soon, though, and for weeks have been putting off grinding my kiln shelves. I enjoy nearly every aspect of #claylife - even stuff like mixing glazes, although it took years to appreciate the calm zone of concentration that requires - but I can't really feel the love for kiln maintenance, so I put it off. And put it off, and put it off. 

So I don't feel guilty for not doing the dreary job that I know needs to be done, I do every damn thing else. I can get a crazy-lot of stuff done when I am procrastinating kiln shelves! I built websites & took photos, posted items online, packed & shipped orders, raked my lawn, cleaned my house like crazy, even applied to refinance my mortgage. Anything, anything other than grinding kiln shelves!

Which is silly. So today I put on my big-girl pants & did the deed. The whole thing took less than an hour, and I was extra thorough! Will I remember that it's really no big deal, next time? 

Probably not. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Lot to Learn: A tale of Some Ridiculously, Laughably Terrible Photos

 In olden times, before the internet, I only needed photos of my work (in slide form) to apply to art fairs and send to stores. The photos were representative of the body of work, not necessarily intended to sell that individual piece. Once or twice a year I'd take five or ten pieces to a photographer who specialized in ceramic art, and pay him a hundred bucks or so, and he'd shoot the photos I'd use for my applications. 

Then along came the interwebs, and online sales, and suddenly I needed photos to sell individual pieces. Getting a pro to shoot these was out of the question, in terms of time - I'd have to schedule a shoot after every firing! - and money. Luckily digital photography appeared on the scene at the same time, so I learned to shoot my own photos

I'm not Peter Lee, but I can shoot adequate enough photos of pottery to get me into art fairs, and that's been good enough for me. Today, tho! Today I shot some Christmas ornaments, with the intention to list them online. Damn these were hard to photograph! The first shots were so ridiculously, laughably terrible that I had to show you. 



These were shot in a south-facing room on a sunny day, with three true-white photo bulbs around them. They look like they were shot at midnight in a mine shaft! I think my mistake was choosing a white background for them - just some freezer paper I had around. The camera tried hard to balance the reflected light, and this dreadful gloom was the result. Next time I will choose a grey background.

These are just some fun little doodads - I plan to list them online, but I won't be applying anywhere with ugly sweater ornaments, I assure you, so I don't plan to reshoot; I'll just "fix it in post," as the cool kids say. 

Was it Jimmy Buffet who said, "If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane?" I think that's especially true for laughing at ourselves. Anyway, enjoy my terrible horrible no-good-very-bad photos. I've got some editing to do. 

ETA: You can see the listings, and the photos after editing, here

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Just Saying Hi!

Checking in with my peeps! What is going on with your lives? I hope you are all staying safe out there, wearing your masks, social distancing, all that. Like a lot of families, we have atomized our Thanksgiving plans: each household celebrating individually. Doug & I will have a scaled down dinner; not the whole nine yards, but turkey plus the extras we like best: stuffing & mashed potatoes for him, garlic parmesan brussels sprouts & pumpkin pie for me. 

Though it seems like we are coming into an even worse covid-19 spike than we have seen yet, we all continue to learn how to keep our businesses afloat when in-person events are risky. The Central Maine Clay Artists* , a professional group I belong to, has for the past 11 years rented a vacant storefront for the month of December to hold a pop up shop, the Holiday Pottery Shop. None of us were entirely comfortable with that level of public interaction this year, so we accepted an invite from Clare Marron, the proprietor of Monkitree, a handmade good shop in Gardiner, to host us. 

We'll be setting up late Saturday afternoon, and on Tuesday, the shopping will begin. 

Portland Pottery will forgo our usual end-of-year bash - that one is a no brainer - but is still planning to hold a show & sale. That event happens December 14th - 17th. 

In addition, like many artists, I am trying to do better about my online presence. I know what to do - basically - I just need to do it. Staying afloat during Covid-19 has also required me to be a little creative about my income stream: I make a lot more cat urns now (RIP kitties; sadly just as many die in pandemic years as any other time) and I have been building websites for artists who, until now, didn't think they needed one. If you need a website, BTW, give me a shout! A basic site starts at $300. 

Today I have some pots to ship, some photos to shoot, a website to update, and a class to teach, so I best get going. 


*Go ahead! Click the link! I built the site.